Billion dollar endorsement deals and multi-million dollar prizes are some of the ways that the most successful athletes from around the world line their nest egg. Here is a list of the ten of the richest male athletes in the world and who they have their money to share with.
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- Tiger Woods
Despite paying out a staggering divorce settlement to ex-wife Elin which was reported to touch US$110 million, Tiger Woods is still the richest sportsman in the world. By far the most famous American professional golfer, Woods has won 14 professional major golf championships, second only to Jack Nicklaus who leads with 18. However Woods owes his fortunes to lucrative endorsement deals with the likes of General Motors, Accenture, Nike, FedEx, Gatorade, Tag Heuer, and Gillette. These are primarily responsible for bringing him US$105 million according to Forbes and US$90.5 million according to Sports Illustrated in the past year.
Elin and Tiger met in 2001 at the British Open at Royal Lytham in England. At the time Elin was working as an au pair to Jesper Parnevik, a Swedish golfer. Woods proposed to Elin while on a safari holiday at the Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa. Even though the wedding ceremony was simple, the preparations and reception dinner were among the glitziest and most expensive. The couple became parents of two boys, Sam and Charles, over the years. However their marriage came to an ugly end amidst media reports of Tiger’s dalliances with cocktail waitresses and sex workers. While Woods lamely apologized for his “transgressions” and “personal failings”, Elin seemed determined to step out of the marriage.
- Kobe Bryant
This American basketball sensation figures as the second highest paid male athletes with a personal income of around US$45 million last year. Winning his fourth NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant firmly secured his position among the NBA all time greats. Nicknamed the ‘Black Mamba’, Bryant’s No. 24 jersey is a top seller not only in the US, but also in Europe and China. Apart from the handsome US$21 million Lakers salary, Bryant owes his millions to endorsement deals with major brands such as Nike, Vitamin Water, Activision and Upper Deck.
Kobe Bryant is married to Vanessa Laine, a former dancer, even though news of their souring relationship surfaces from time to time in the media. The two apparently met during a music video shoot where Vanessa was a background dancer. The wedding was reportedly only given a miss by Bryant’s parents but his teammates as well. The marriage hit a rocky patch in 2003 when Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a woman who later agreed to drop charges and settle out of court. However the incident led to a rift between Bryant and his wife with the former admitting to being unfaithful in his marriage. The couple has two daughters, Natalia and Gianna.
- Michael Jordan
Yet another star of the hoops to figure among the richest male athletes of the world is former NBA player, Michael Jordan. His annual income is estimated to be around US$ 45 million which is hardly surprising considering Nike is making around US$1 billion in sales from the Jordan Brand. Apart from his endorsements, Jordan is also a minority owner as well as head of basketball operations for Charlotte Bobcats, a team for which he is regarded as one of the favorites in the list of the potential buyers.
Michael Jordan recently divorced his wife Juanita Vanoy after a marriage which spanned seventeen years and saw the birth of three children, Jeffrey, Marcus and Jasmine. Michael and Juanita met in 1984 when a mutual friend introduced them to each other at the Bennigan’s restaurant in Chicago. By six months they were dating exclusively and despite an abortive engagement, finally got married in 1989 at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. Over the years the couple drifted apart since February 2006 started living separately. Their official divorce came through at the end of the year on account of irreconcilable differences. The same year, Jordan was entangled in ugly allegations by former lover Karla Knafel that he paid her money to keep their love child a secret. A DNA test however revealed that Jordan was not the father of Knafel’s child.
- Kimi Raikonnen
Nicknamed the ‘Iceman’, Kimi Raikonnen is a professional racing car driver and is believed to make US $45 million a year. Currently racing in World Rally Championship circuit for the Citroen Junior Team, Raikonnen spent nine seasons competing as a Formula One racing driver during which he won the 2007 Formula One World Drivers Championships. In the F1 circuit he has raced for several big names including Sauber, McLaren and most famously Ferrari whom he left in 2009.
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The 31 year-old Finnish who is often referred to as the fastest driver on the planet, Raikonnen is married to Jenni Dahlman, a Finnish model and former Miss Scandinavia. The two met during the Miss Scandinavia contest where Jenni was crowned winner. The couple got married in July 2004 currently live in Baar, Switzerland while also having an apartment in Helsinki and a villa in Porkkala. In 2005, Jeni moved away from modeling to become a show jumping rider and she has now seven horses. Both Kimi and Jeni have modeled for Tag Heuer Eyewear.
- David Beckham
Even though he is far from being the best player on the soccer field, David Beckham continues to rake in millions from his lucrative endorsement deals on account of his brand image and status as a fashion icon. Having played for various soccer clubs in Europe like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Milan as well as the England national team, Beckham now plays in midfield for the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer in the US. While his playing contract with LA Galaxy is reported to bring him a cool US$6.5 million a year, he earns the rest of his US$ 42 million annual pay from endorsements with famous companies like Adidas, Motorola and Giorgio Armani.
David Beckham is married to Victoria Adams, a member of the once immensely popular British pop music band, Spice Girls. The two began dating soon after Victoria attended a Manchester United match in 1997 and by next year, David proposed to her in a restaurant in Cheshunt, England. The couple was married in 1999 in a lavish wedding which initiated great media frenzy. David and Victoria have three sons, Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz. Despite being linked to women several times in the course of his marriage, David Beckham continues to enjoy a strong marital relationship with his wife, a fact that works only too well for his brand image.
- LeBron James
Nicknamed ‘King James’, he is one of America’s most successful basketball players. Having been the Most Valuable Player for two straight seasons, 2008-09 and 2009-10, LeBron James has also represented United States in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics in which he won the bronze and gold respectively. Currently playing small forward/guard for Miami Heat, James is believed to earn around US$ 40 million a year from his club as well as endorsement deals with companies like Nike, Sprite, Glacéau, Bubblicious, Upper Deck, McDonald's and State Farm.
The 25 year-old James is married to Savannah Brinson, his high school sweetheart. The couple has two sons, Lebrun James Junior and Bryce Maximus James and the family lives at their new mansion in Bath, Ohio.
- Phil Mickelson
Another American professional golfer, Phil Mickelson has won four major championships besides 38 events in the PGA circuit. Nicknamed ‘Lefty; for his left-handed swing, Michelson figures among the ten richest male athletes on account of his US$40 million annual income, of which a major chunk comes from endorsements with companies like Barclay’s, Exxon, KPMG and Rolex even though his most lucrative deal is with Calloway’s.
The 40 year-old Mickelson is married to Amy McBride, a former model and Phoenix Sun cheerleader. The two met in 1992 at the Arizona State University and around four years later they were married. The couple has three children, Amanda, Sophia and Evan. Phil shares a supportive relationship with his wife, a fact that was in evidence when he suspended his May 2009 PGA schedule on receiving news that Amy had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Manny Pacquiao One of the greatest names in the world of professional boxing, Manny Pacquiao from Philippines is estimated to have an annual income of around US$40 million. Pacquiao is a man of many ‘firsts’ including the first boxer in history to win nine world titles in seven different weight divisions as well as the first boxer in history to win the lineal championship in four different weight classes. Currently he is WBO Welterweight World Champion (Super Champion) and is rated as the number 1 pound-for-pound best boxer in the world by several boxing associations. Apart from being an athlete, he is also a well-known politician in Philippines, representing the province of Sarangani in the country’s House of Representatives.
31 year-old Pacquiao is a devout Roman Catholic and is believed to attend a thanksgiving Mass in Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila every time he returns successful from a tournament abroad. Manny is married to Maria Geraldine Jamora and the couple has four children.
- Valentino Rossi
Rossi is one of biggest names in the world of motorcycle racing which earns him around US$ 35 million a year. Of this amount approximately US$ 16 million comes from his contract to ride with Yamaha while he the rest is brought in through licensing income, bonuses as well as endorsement deals with companies like energy drink Monster. Rossi owes his lucrative endorsement deals to his phenomenal success on the professional motorcycle racing circuit which includes nine Grand Prix World Championships.
The 31 year-old Italian motorbike racer carries the nickname of ‘Doctor’ and prefers to keep his personal life out of the media’s glare even though he is quite forthcoming about his passion for Italian soccer team Inter Milan as well as for his pet dogs, many of whom have featured alongside Rossi in commercials.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
An American professional racecar driver who figures in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as well as the Nationwide Series, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is believed to take home a cool annual figure of around US$35 million. Part of this comes from his association with Hendrick Motorsports whom he represents in NASCAR while the major chunk he owes to several multi-million dollar endorsement deals with Adidas, Chevrolet, Polaris, Wrangler and Nationwide Insurance.
The 36 year old has been the Most Popular NASCAR driver straight from 2003 to 2009. Yet he is quite reticent when it comes to his personal life. Currently he is unmarried and does not appear to be dating anybody.